Aqsa Parvez’s Killers Await Sentence

I’m reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali‘s book Nomad — it’s incredible; you all need to check it out — and her story is very similar to that of Canadian Aqsa Parvez.

Bother families were ruled with an iron fist by the father. Rebellion wasn’t allowed. Marriages were decided by the father, too.

Ali managed to run away from her Muslim family.

Parvez did not have that chance.

Her family got to her first.

Aqsa Parvez, 16, the youngest in the family, dared to challenge her father’s rule.

She first refused his demands to wear the hijab and the traditional Pakistani clothing her four older sisters always wore. She hung out with girls outside her own culture and when things became intolerable at home, she opted to live in a shelter.

Even when Parvez relented, and allowed her to wear urban-style jeans and T-shirts to school, she still wanted more freedom. Her father wouldn’t allow her to go to her friend’s homes or to the mall on the weekends. Even talking on the phone at night was forbidden. Eventually, she ran away for a second time.

On the morning of Dec. 10, 2007, Aqsa was murdered in the basement bedroom of her Mississauga home. Her room was the only bedroom without a door.

She had been strangled by her assailant’s bare hands.

Her assailant was her older brother.

Everyone, including Aqsa, knew something terrible was going to happen to her. She told her high school’s counselor her dad was going to kill her. Look at what her mother said:

In a chilling police interview on the day Aqsa was killed, her mother crying and talking out loud to herself, was recorded as saying she thought her husband was only going to “break legs and arms,” but instead “killed her straight away.”

As if the former were any more acceptable…

Today, the father and the brother will be sentenced — they pleaded guilty and they face life sentences in prison. But they could be paroled after a decade or two. These monsters should not be allowed back in public.

There’s no honor in these “honor killings,” a misnomer if ever there was one. These are committed by men who are cowards and can’t take a woman defying their rules. This is religion at its worst.

I wonder why these parents chose to immigrate to Canada if they still wanted to abide by Pakistani laws…

  • Alex

    I hate all the other theists who will shake their head at something so infuriatingly tragic and think their religion is somehow excused. Too bad we still have Christian “morality” in our legal system and do all but murder a rape victim for their claim.

  • Andrew Morgan

    “This is religion at its worst.”

    Is this religion, or culture?

  • Aguz

    And now in Somalia two guys were killed by extremist Muslims for watching the World Cup *sigh* This mans are psychopaths, and they use religion as a tool to justified them-selfs.

  • http://infophilia.blogspot.com infophile

    Religion is culture. It’s a huge force behind culture, which keeps it from moving forward in the world. You can’t improve your standards when you think your every tradition is inspired by God/Allah/FSM.

  • andrew

    I want to cry :(…

    And Nomad is amazing…a real tear jerker so far as well.

  • Charles

    Yes, this is quite sick. It is nothing more than… I don’t like what you are doing so I am going to kill you. And the mother, “I thought he was only going to break legs/arms”. This is one sick group of people. In protection of my culture, in which we don’t abide killing or maiming others simply because we don’t like what they are doing, I think the prosecution of this act should go much further than the father and son. And quite frankly, these people, likely the whole family need more psychiatric help than simply being placed behind bars.

  • Chal

    Just a correction here, when the article says

    She had been strangled by her assailant’s bare hands.

    the assailant was her father not her brother. Her brother was complicit in the killing and was the one who brought her back home, but it was her father who actually strangled her.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    I have teenage daughters. The idea of even hitting them is abhorrent. If I want them to do something or to follow a rule that I have then I explain it to them so that they understand my reasoning. If they disagree (and they do) then they can explain and maybe even earn a concession to my rule. this is how I’ve operated as a parent since they were old enough to talk.

    I have never had to force them to do what I want (yet) and never had to even threaten physical force or violence. I’m not saying that I do a perfect job or that we’re entirely reasonably all the time but reason seems to work much better than being dictatorial and oppressive.

    Children will naturally try to test the limits that parents and carers impose on their behaviour. How else can they understand that the limits exist for a reason? Any punishment that I dish out (sanctions against privileges or additional household tasks) are a reflection of the broken rule and are proportional to the infringement and it always accompanies a (probably quite dull and unnecessary) lecture on why they are being punished.

    How can someone learn from their mistakes and correct their behaviour (as the father undoubtedly considered his daughter’s actions to be wrong) if they are punished with death or violence? How is a lesson delivered when they cannot correct their behaviour after the punishment?

    It seems clear that there is something fundamentally wrong with a person or culture that believes that violence and murder are justifiable means to correct the behaviour of a teen who is simply stretching their limits.

    That the culture is heavily intertwined with Islam in Pakistan is a correlation that the faith influences have acted as a signifier to the father and brother’s actions. I don’t believe that it can be cited as the sole cause or even as a main contributory cause without compelling evidence. These kinds of stories are horrible but they are anecdotal “just so” stories.

    It is clear that a culture that allows or encourages violence needs to change at a fundamental level. Islam (or any other religion) can act as a barrier to change or can act as a facilitator to change if it can be appropriately focused.

    Clearly these men will go to prison and will deserve their punishments but will their sentences send a message to Pakistani Muslims that their cultural heritage needs to adapt or will it be seen as an excuse to retreat into isolationism? I would hope that most Muslims would see the actions of these men as a serious aberration and not something that they would even consider as appropriate or acceptable. I am concerned that ALL Muslims will be marked with the same taint of violent oppressive sexism that marks these men.

  • Lisa C.

    This sad incident begs the question – How can we prevent this in our own communities? I’m not Muslim and I’m not hooked into my local immigrant community. I’m simply an Atheist/Agnostic who is very concerned about the protection and freedom of expression among young women. Who is going to listen to my concerns or even take them seriously?

    What can I do as a citizen to help protect young women in my own backyard? This happened in Canada, is it likely to happen in my hometown of Seattle, WA?

    How can I find out? How do we start dialogue? Who should I talk to? Which people in my local government are usually responsible for fielding these kinds of questions? Where do I start?

  • Muslim

    Islam doesn’t say to kill the daughter because she wear unsuitable clothes or things like this.

    May be her father is a muslem but he doesn’t follow islam instructions.

  • http://www.youtube.com/azsuperman01 AZSuperman01

    I’m extremely bothered by the fact that the Mom was apparently she was okay with having her daughters arms and legs broken as a form of discipline.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    We will probably never know whether or not the father would have killed his daughter anyway even it didn’t have anything to do with religion. But certainly adding in the mindset that certain customs are dictated by GOD himself and other writings that sins should be punishable by death and the belief that GOD tortures the sinful for eternity after death surely has an impact on behavior. I’m at least grateful that most Christian don’t really believe most of the stuff in the Old testament (like stoning children for disobedience). I hope the Muslims start to disbelieve their own books as well.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    That is so sad and horrible.

  • Ben

    There’s no honor in these “honor killings,” a misnomer if ever there was one.

    I agree, so how about you, we, and everybody stop calling it that. It’s ritualised murder, plain and simple, and should be referred to as such.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    @Chal — Not that it makes a difference, but the posting is correct; her brother strangled her

  • Thiago

    I agree with Ben. It should be called honor killing.. it’s murder.. that’s it

  • gwen

    I just don’t understand why people run away from their land of birth, come to the USA and try to format a little (home country) within their four walls, and become furious at the ‘Americanization’ of their children. Pakistanis are not the only country to do this, but they are one of the few willing to kill (funny, all of those parents willing to kill their own children for ‘cultural reasons’ are invariably muslim).

  • LeAnne

    I feel like maybe putting leaflets on cars is just as bad as the Christians who do it.

    Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but pushing it down their throat is different.

  • Alt+3

    I’m sad to say this happened in my country. We bill ourselves as a multicultural mosaic where you’re encouraged to keep your native culture. Which sounds fine until you get a look at it from within. All the time I see people look at the mistreatment and oppression of women and people just say “Oh, it’s their culture.” and “We can’t comment on that, they’re practicing their culture.” It’s bullshit. Something is wrong whether or not it’s your culture. Telling women they’re lesser beings is WRONG. Child abuse is WRONG. Murdering a girl because she doesn’t subscribe to your ass backwards, ignorant, misogynistic, morally retarded beliefs is WRONG.

    The fact that this girls mother isn’t being charged (to the best of my knowledge) for negligence causing death is an insult to canadian values.

    I hate sounding like a racist red neck when I say it but when you come to Canada you play by Canadian rules. Period.

  • http://onestdv.blogspot.com OneSTDV

    I wonder why these parents chose to immigrate to Canada if they still wanted to abide by Pakistani laws…

    Yes. In Pakistan, the daughter wouldn’t have been tempted by Western norms.

  • Claudia

    @Alt+3 I share some of your frustration with the more irritating forms of cultural relativism, but I think maybe you’re airing a bit of a red herring. I have never, not once, not ever seen even the most hippy dippy “spiritual” person justify non-interference into violence based on culture. I’ve seen it used with the Hijab, but never used to justify non-intervention in the case of violence against women. Its true however that such things are a chilling demonstration that cultures are not just different from one another, but that some are better than one another.

    I find it sickening how the mother could be mourning her daughter when she did nothing whatsoever to prevent her death. Oh she “only” thought he’d break her arms and legs, excuse me. Female dogs will risk everything for their puppies, and this bitch stood aside while her own flesh and blood was murdered. How she can stand to live inside her own skin is beyond me. Not very friendly atheist of me, but these stories make my stomach turn.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com The First Beth

    This is sickening. And I agree with Ben–it’s ritualized murder, and it has nothing to do with any real sense of honor. It’s misogyny wrapped in a fucked-up religion.

    Hoverfrog, I think you have a point about how all muslims may not be as violently sexist as the father and brother in this case. However, it seems to be happening a lot. Every year, at least hundreds of women and men are murdered for not obeying their religion. So, unfortunately, it appears that violent sexism is pretty common.

    Does anyone know of any muslim groups (of men, especially) who publicly oppose “honor killings”?

  • Amarantha

    Bear in mind that the mother is probably just as oppressed by the men in her family as the daughters are. Defying her husband could have got her killed also. Just because she didn’t stop it doesn’t mean she was OK with it. People seem to think she should have risked her own death on her daughter’s behalf, but we’re not in her shoes, so we don’t get to judge. “Bitch” is pretty harsh, imo.

  • http://findingmyfeminism.blogspot.com/ Not Guilty

    This is a misinterpretation of religion, just like most of any religion is. Its a twisting of words to justify. It is cultural, but this type of killing is generally confined to Muslims. This is a stain on Canada and Toronto, but it is not the only one. The authorities are starting to take notice and are working to deal with it. These men are not a menace to society, only their own family, but they still can’t get paroled for 18 years. Religion has got to go. Now.

  • SickoftheUS

    Since we’re condemning cultural relativism, let’s not then fail to point out the really bad things that, for example, American culture produces, like:

    lack of community cohesiveness;
    breakdown in family structure;
    a general “you’re on your own” belief structure;
    firm cultural exceptionalism;
    violent, filled with guns;
    war-loving, imperial;
    native Christian religion seriously problematic;
    class-centered plutocracy;
    long history of violence to and oppression of red- and brown-skinned people;
    etc.

    At least we don’t murder our children for honor, I hear some of you saying – that’s what the *really* bad cultures do. I say: look at the big picture of what cultures do.

  • Hitch

    I have very little sympathy for this “look over there that’s horrible too” arguing. I hear it a lot and I have yet to see a case where that was helpful in improving a problem.

    Point is that all things that are wrong are wrong. One wrong does not apologize the other.

    There are universal principles, and yes they are violated by the US government, and they are violated by families against their own kin. Does mixing the two have anything to say about the horror one individual suffered? No. It’s serves but as a distraction.

  • Ultimate Delivery

    Not Guilty said, “This is a misinterpretation of religion, just like most of any religion is. Its a twisting of words to justify.”

    I don’t understand your distinction. Religion involves the belief in gods or the supernatural. At the end of the day, the religious person is either directly making stuff up or following someone else’s made up stuff. How can this guy’s justification not be labeled as religious? He felt that his god had mandated a certain standard of behavior, and he used violence to enforce that code of conduct on his family.

    What words were twisted? It doesn’t matter because the basic premise is faulty. There is no evidence that an intelligent entity created us to do certain things.

    The logical conclusion of your “this isn’t religion, that is religion” thinking would be to develop a ranking of behaviors that are either religious or not religious based on the popularity of the delusion motivating them.

  • http://atheistclimber.wordpress.com atheistclimber

    This story prompted me to write, yet again, on morality, culture and religion:

    http://atheistclimber.wordpress.com/2010/06/16/science-vs-religion/

  • Dan W

    These sort of actions, motivated by religious beliefs, are just one of the reasons I cannot respect most organized religions. Islam and Christianity are tied for the position of religion I dislike the most (and consider most unworthy of my respect). I hope Aqsa’s father and brother get life in prison with no parole.

  • Milena

    Ok, this case is obviously horrible, but come on. Let’s not use it as an occasion to pat ourselves on the back over how awesome our culture is relative to Pakistani culture. A man does not murder his daughter just because of culture. He does it because he is a brutal controlling misogynist. And believe it or not, people from all walks of life and belief systems kill the women in their lives. Otherwise, we “enlightened” Westerners would not have such a problem with violence against women and girls, now would we? Find a study or two that show significantly higher rates of violence against women perpetuated by Muslim men, or drop the generalizing. And let’s not call the mother a bitch, ok? It’s very easy to say that she should have risked her life to stop her husband when we’re on the internet and not in the least connected to the case.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    The First Bet

    Every year, at least hundreds of women and men are murdered for not obeying their religion. So, unfortunately, it appears that violent sexism is pretty common.

    It does “seem” that way but how does religiously based, mysoginistic murder of family members among Muslims compare to the same among Baptists or among Jehovah’s Witnesses? I don’t know and headlines are not a fair indicator. It certainly isn’t a majority and my expectation is that ritual murders like this will be as widely condemned among Pakistani Muslims as we condemn them.

  • http://blogs.bluebec.com Rebecca

    Actually Pakistani law does not allow murder, although “honour killings” tend to not be followed-up vigorously.

    From the US State Dept report on Human Rights Practices (http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/sca/136092.htm):

    “Honor killings and mutilations occurred throughout the country during the year. The Aurat Foundation reported that during the year there were 604 honor killings.

    A 2005 law established penalties for honor killings. Human rights groups criticized the legislation because it allows the victim or the victim’s heirs to negotiate physical or monetary restitution with the perpetrator of the crime in exchange for dropping charges, a law known as “qisas” and “diyat.” Because honor crimes generally occurred within families, perpetrators were able to negotiate nominal payments and avoid more serious punishment.”

    So instead of maligning an ENTIRE country, how about sticking to the fact that this man and his son killed their daughter/sister because she disagreed with them, and stick with how that is f*cked up versus everything else.

  • http://caffeinated-bliss.blogspot.com/ CaffeinatedBliss

    “I wonder why these parents chose to immigrate to Canada if they still wanted to abide by Pakistani laws…”

    “Yes. In Pakistan, the daughter wouldn’t have been tempted by Western norms.”

    Having said that, it always does come down to religion… which disgusts me. People are lemmings.

    First of all this is not a Pakistani law… Murder is a crime, and so are “honor killings” although it’s difficult for justice to be served in the more rural/tribal areas of the country.

    Secondly, the quote “In Pakistan, the daughter would not have been tempted by Western norms” is just ridiculous. I’m a Pakistani (not Muslim) and western influence is everywhere. It is brought here in the form of movies, television, the internet and much of the elite. It is very prominent in the private education sector, the corporate sector and more and more conservatives are embracing it daily. If not them, their offspring… There are plenty of people fighting to abolish these ridiculous “cultural laws” but we have a long way to go.

  • Ed

    Millena

    A man does not murder his daughter just because of culture. He does it because he is a brutal controlling misogynist. And believe it or not, people from all walks of life and belief systems kill the women in their lives.

    This is true, but it would be wrong to ignore the role religion played in this case as it does in other “honor killings” (and yes, Ben and Thiago we do need to call these killings something different because they are different, they involve perceived issues of honor, respect, authority) It is clear that religion and fundamentalist religious rules are playing a role in this type of violence. It is very rare for family members to be active participants in “normal” domestic violence the way they are in religiously motivated honor killings. Honor killings are not “just” domestic violence or murder.
    http://www.meforum.org/2067/are-honor-killings-simply-domestic-violence

    Find a study or two that show significantly higher rates of violence against women perpetuated by Muslim men, or drop the generalizing.

    “According to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences in 2002, over 90% of married women surveyed in that country reported being kicked, slapped, beaten or sexually abused when husbands were dissatisfied by their cooking or cleaning, or when the women had ‘failed’ to bear a child or had given birth to a girl instead of a boy.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_and_domestic_violence#Incidence_of_domestic_violence_among_Muslims

    “The results showed that Muslim boys from immigrant families were more than twice as likely to agree with macho statements than boys from Christian immigrant families.The rate was highest among those considered as very religious, Pfeiffer said.” http://www.thelocal.de/society/20100606-27673.html

    Of course whether or not there is a higher rate isn’t the point (I doubt there is and anyway it would be very hard to demonstrate causality rather than correlation), honor killings are still different in motive and execution from “normal” domestic violence and we need to examine them with this in mind.

  • Colin

    What must have gone on in that mans mind for him to conclude the the ideal response was for him to strangle his own child? Was this action for his benefit or hers?


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